Lesson Plans for A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare is the master of the English language. My goal for introducing Shakespeare to my kids is that they grow accustomed to lilting language and skillful constructions. I believe it is one of the best preparations for good writing, a skill which often doesn’t blossom until junior high or high school – when they are ready with opinions to share.

In my original Shakespeare for Kids post, I wrote:

Shakespeare can be an intimidating subject to introduce. Isn’t the language archaic and the doesn’t high quality mean high difficulty? Actually, the language isn’t that difficult when it’s read (that is, interpreted) by an experienced reader. The profound themes within plots were created not as pure art, but also to entertain the masses. Shakespeare was the hot movie in his day, and he can still be enjoyed that way today.

Shakespeare for Kids: A Midsummer Night's Dream » Simply Convivial

Shakespeare for Kids: A Midsummer Night’s Dream

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is a fun introduction to Shakespeare. It involves magic, fairies, mistaken identities, and lots of action. It’s a common play to find performed live, and it’s generally colorful and lively.

Step 1: Introduce A Midsummer Night’s Dream

Shakespeare: His Work & Worlds by Michael Rosen is a good Shakespeare biography and background picture book to browse, especially if you have children who love to pore over beautiful illustrations and you don’t mind skipping around and reading a book in sections and not sequentially and completely.

Bruce Coville has an excellently done Midsummer Night’s Dream picture book, and Tina Packer’s Tales from Shakespeare also has a version we enjoy.

Step 2: Memorize A Midsummer Night’s Dream Famous Lines

A Midsummer Night’s Dream is the play which Ken Ludwig recommends beginning with in his book, How to Teach Your Children Shakespeare. When we did A Midsummer Night’s Dream, I used the lines he recommended memorizing:

I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull’d in these flowers with dances and delight;
And there the snake throws her enamell’d skin,
Weed wide enough to wrap a fairy in:
And with the juice of this I’ll streak her eyes,
And make her full of hateful fantasies.

and this section, by Bottom:

I have had a dream, past the wit of man to
say what dream it was: man is but an ass, if he go
about to expound this dream. Methought I was–there
is no man can tell what. Methought I was,–and
methought I had,–but man is but a patched fool, if
he will offer to say what methought I had. The eye
of man hath not heard, the ear of man hath not
seen, man’s hand is not able to taste, his tongue
to conceive, nor his heart to report, what my dream
was. I will get Peter Quince to write a ballad of
this dream: it shall be called Bottom’s Dream,
because it hath no bottom

We had added in another speech to our recitation, but after a little more experience, I’d say that for a 5-6 week stretch with one play, two selections is plenty.

However, our little homeschool group has a Helena, so of course we had to learn:

Captain of our fairy band,
Helena is here at hand;
And the youth, mistook by me,
Pleading for a lover’s fee.
Shall we their fond pageant see?
Lord, what fools these mortals be!

Download the lesson plans and memory sheets:

Step 3: Watch A Midsummer Night's Dream Movie or Production

I am a firm believer that Shakespeare is meant to be seen, so I think watching a production – live or movie – is an important part of learning and loving Shakespeare. Usually we've tried to fit a movie in after reading the picture book summary and introducing the play and before we start the real text. However, that's really tricky with A Midsummer Night's Dream, because Hollywood loves to take Shakespeare comedy as an excuse for nudity. I didn't want to show a movie of a black-and-white stage performance, either, since the point is to show the kids that Shakespeare is fun. Instead of watching a movie, we saw the local children's theatre production, which was very well done and fun. Luckily, this is a play often chosen for small local companies. Keep your eyes open for an opportunity to see it live; it'd be a great first Shakespeare to see live.

Step 4: Listen to A Midsummer Night's Dream

How a text is read greatly influences comprehension and appreciation, so I like to stick with well-done audio versions of the play along with either coloring or reading along. A Shakespearean actor reading the text simply makes it more understandable, and a British accent makes it more enjoyable, too. For Taming of the Shrew we used the Dover Shakespeare Coloring Book, Dover's cheap paperback copy for reading along, and this audio version from Audible.

Step 5: Play A Midsummer Night's Dream

No lectures or charts or Socratic discussions necessary - not for elementary students. Just wait and watch and see what connections they draw themselves and I bet you'll be surprised. Another way the kids enjoyed acting out A Midsummer Night's Dream was with the Masterpuppet Theatre set. They each picked a scene to read while using the puppets to act it out.
You can also try having them set up scenes or dramatize acts with Duplos or Legos.
hakespeare for Kids: A Midsummer Night's Dream » Simply Convivial
Remember that the point in the pre-high-school years is just to introduce the stories and get Shakespeare into their affections. If they grow up thinking that Shakespeare is fun and normal, they will be ready to dive deep when maturity comes because there will be no fear or intimidation that comes with the assumption that Shakespeare is hard and enigmatic.
Remember that the point is having fun with Shakespeare and realizing he isn't scary. If you've done that, you've succeeded, even if the lines aren't memorized and if they can't remember character names a month later.

Download the lesson plans and memory sheets:

Learn more about reading Shakespeare with kids.

5 Responses

  1. Lizzie Smith
    |

    We began this play 2 weeks ago. I planned to just read Lamb’s version, as my oldest is 8 and I had been unable to interest in them in the real play. One morning, during Circle Time, they were having trouble keeping Helena, Hermia, Demetrius and Lysander straight; as a result they were very bored and zoning out.

    So, I had them grab some stuffed animals to use as characters, and before I knew it they were begging to start over, we’d acted out half of the story with stuffed animals, a hour had passed and they were upset that I was calling it quits. The next day we finished the story, they still wanted more, and they began listening to the real play and are memorizing lines. :)

    I had been considering getting rid of the majority of our stuffed animals for the sake of space, but now that they’re being used to act out Shakespeare I have found them a permanent home. For my young’uns, they make Shakespeare fun!

  2. Lizzie Smith
    |

    Me again. Do you happen to know if the 1935 version with Mickey Rooney is appropriate? It’s available on Youtube right now, and seems promising.

    • Mystie Winckler
      |

      That one didn’t come up in my movie searches somehow! I don’t know anything about it. You’ll have to let me know. :)

  3. kortney
    |

    our almost 2 year old is absolutely taken with the Colville MSD! he carries it around with him all the time.